SYNOPSIS:   About Lisa, my neighbor at Putera.  About a Kecak performance.   Driving around with Kadet.

At the reception of Putera’s guesthouse there was a list of names of guest marked on a white board – and one of them was “Lisa – 5 days”.  On my second day, I met Lisa.  She is in her twenties, a postal worker from Austria, traveling alone.  She has rented a motor bike and is doing what I would love to do but am WAY too afraid to do:  She is driving in and around of Ubud visiting rice fields, shops, temples, just as she pleases.  Since I have never been a biker in my youth I am not about to learn this craft now, and of all places in Bali, driving on the “wrong” side of the street.  I do have my limits!

But Lisa and I decided to attend a performance together and against my better judgment I hopped on her bike.  She did just fine.  But, it’s nonetheless the foreigners on their bikes who cause the most accidents in Ubud…

I had mapped out a performance schedule and today it was a Kecak dance.  The tourist information provided a shuttle to the temple, site of the performance and located a bit at the outskirts of Ubud.  I appreciated the service.

Contrary to the in-town performance I had attended, which was crammed-packed full, this one had at best 25 visitors; compare that the close to 75 performers!  Kecak is another traditional dance but none of us in the audience had ever seen anything like it:  About 50 bare-chested men – which suited some more than others – lined up in a circle around a small central “stage” – really, just an opening.  For the most part they sat, doubled and tripled up in concentric circles.  There were a couple of leaders among them who threw out key phrases or provided the base beat while the others were “chucking”.  Picture all of them repeatedly saying “chucke-chucke-chucke” and a few other phrases.  They were the “orchestra”!  Rhythms changed, paces changed, phrases changed, but all of it done in a throaty way with no further instruments; no percussion, nothing.  The rarest of clapping their hands.  But at all times, their shoulders would sway rhythmically and their heads would turn in unison.  At times they acted a bit; sparingly – waving their hands with fluttering fingers towards an evil demon or forming a circle around a maiden in distress – once again the dominant theme of the performance, or getting up briefly in order to drive somebody away.  In the case of protection they would sit inside each other’s laps and fold backwards; lying with their backs on the next person’s stomach.  I can only say:  WEIRD!  And different and mesmerizing. 

I am so glad, we had this opportunity.  I felt sorry for the performers who had to perform in front of a nearly empty house.  I hope they were not insulted.

Preceding the performance I had spent a day with Kadet, a woman from across the street who came highly recommended by Lisa as a driver.  Lisa went for the super deluxe private tour and did a trip to the Bali Zoo which features elephants, just for starters.  The highlight of her trip was a trip to a dolphinarium to swim with dolphins.  I can only imagine the thrill of that – being pushed around by your feet by two dolphins’ noses, having them jump over you, etc.  But the whole thing is hugely expensive and as much as I would likely enjoy this, it is way out of the realm of why I am here and if I start blowing money this way, I won’t make it through the trip.  And finally, time (even 60 days) is limited.  So, sorry folks – no dolphin stories on my account.

But I visited yet another coffee plantation, a rice terrace – one of them (not this particular one) in Bali is now protected by the UNESCO.  And we made a long stop at one of the most holy sites of the area, the Water Temple

A ground spring bubbles up in a protected water basin which has water in the most brilliant and varied colors.  Truly magnificent.  From here the water is channeled through the temple into a row of spouts under which devotees line up for ritual baths.  There is a multiple step way of doing this right.  I could not quite follow how and since I was a mere spectator, it did not matter.  Some Westerners pushed this a bit far for my test (see one of the images).

Bali is full of opportunities for retreats, meditations, and other fun new age activities. In many ways it seems to have become a cult destination; not quite my cup of tea.  🙂

And that’s it for today.  Good night.